GOOSEBERRIES

Hardy gooseberries are native to New England; however, the early English brought some of their own varieties with them when they came. Unfortunately, many were less hardy and didn’t like the warm weather, some survived and some did not. There is now a moratorium on new plantings of gooseberries in New Hampshire. According to the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, even the so-called new resistant varieties can be infected with white pine blister rust that can weaken and even kill white pine trees. So I won’t be planting my own soon.

Fortunately for me, we have a wonderful old English variety called Ribes uva-crispa , in the Moffatt-Ladd garden, and I was able to pick some. The gooseberries at the museum are smaller yet, when ripe, very sweet. I picked the largest green ones that I could find for one of my receipt and then just picked others to make jam.gooseberry-spring

I have always wanted to make gooseberries that look like hops. There are many receipts out there, the first being Eliza Smith 1727, The Compleat Housewife. However, I decided to use W. A. Henderson The Housekeeper’s Instructor, 1792. This is a receipt that I found on Ivan Day’s site. I love his story about how Liza Smith impaled her split gooseberries on thorns, could be dangerous if you swallowed one. Like Henderson, I’m using linen thread.

The first thing I needed to do is wash them and pick through them. I then picked out the largest of the gooseberries. There were only a few that were still very green so I added some that were starting to ripen. Then I arrange six to be made into the imitation of hops. With a knife I cut the gooseberries from the stem side and split it into four without going all the way to the flower end. Then the arduous task of taking out all the seeds begins. Now this is when I wish I had a servant; it takes a long time to remove all the seeds.

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After you have the gooseberries strung, they need to be blanched. I had picked grape leaves from the garden also and put a layer of them in cold water in a shallow pan. I then began to layer gooseberry hops in-between the leaves. The use of the leaves is to help the gooseberries keep their green color. I put a cover on it and let the water heat just until small bubbles formed. When blanched, I took them out and put them in ice water to stop the cooking. I did not want them to get to soft and fall apart.

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With the gooseberries hops cooled, I put them on a plate, while I boiled sugar water and made thick sugary syrup to pour over them.

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I took the jar to my talk on kitchens at the Museum and put some on the tiered stand to give everyone a good look at them. They do look like hops. When I brought them home I put brandy on the top of the syrup to keep them safe from bacteria.

I like them, and even though they are troublesome to make, they will look great as an eatable decoration around a squab or fish dish.

Sandie

Gooseberry (Shrub)

…The tart fruit is eaten ripe and often made into jellies, preserves, pies, and other desserts or wine. Hundreds of varieties are grown in northern Europe, many interplanted in fruit orchards. English gooseberries ( R. uva-crispa), popularly called grossularia, are native to the Old World and have long been cultivated for fruit.

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About Sandie

Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However it was not until about Fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury Ct. I was the director of the Junior Docent program and among the programs each week we cooked. At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages you name it we offered it. I am now a member of the ALFAM foodways group. Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on heart cooking and the 18th century way of life. I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 17070’s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at Museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing workshop and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright house. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the Museum of Old York in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file Because I do make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager. I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

One thought on “GOOSEBERRIES

  1. You keep trying all new things and this is always a venture for you and you come out smelling like a rose. Such an art.